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Ravens week five analysis: dominant defense carrying offense so far

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The Baltimore Ravens beat the Cincinnati Bengals 27-3 on Sunday, bringing their overall record to 4-1. This is the best start through the first five games of a season since 2012.

It’s a good start to the season, but also unexpected. Most fans expected the Ravens offense to take a step forward this year with the continued development of Lamar Jackson as a passer, as well as seeing the young targets grow up.

Instead, it’s been a dominant defense that has carried a struggling offense on its back up to this point.

Read my Week four analysis of the Washington Football Team here.

Some key points from Sunday’s defensive performance

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  • The Ravens defense kept their streak of forcing a turnover in consecutive games to 19. This is currently the longest streak in the NFL. Against the Bengals, they forced three turnovers–one interception and two fumble recoveries.
  • The last turnover they forced, a fumble from wide receiver Mike Thomas, was returned for a touchdown. This was the first time the Ravens defense has returned a fumble for a touchdown since Marlon Humphrey did against D.K. Metcalf in week seven last season.
  • Speaking of Humphrey, he was the one to force that fumble. This makes it a ridiculous third time he has forced a fumble so far this season.
  • This was the first time the defense faced Joe Burrow in his young career. It might be a matchup Burrow wants to forget. He was limited to 183 passing yards on 19/30 throwing and sacked a whopping seven times.
  • Overall, the defense gave the Bengals nothing all game, holding their offense to only 263 total yards. Their best drive in the first half went eight plays and 41 yards but ended in a turnover after Burrow was sacked and fumbled the ball.
  • Ravens rookie linebacker Patrick Queen was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week. Check out his stats from Sunday: nine total tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and one return for a touchdown.

The Ravens offense still trying to find their rhythm

On the other side, Lamar Jackson had an up-and-down day passing the ball.

One one hand, he looked to be on the same page with his top two targets. Marquise Brown had six receptions for 77 yards and recorded his first touchdown of the season. Mark Andrews added six receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown as well.

On the other hand, Jackson passed for only 180 yards on 19/37 throwing. He did have two passing touchdowns, but also threw his second interception of the year.

What was more shocking is how many (or few) rushing yards he had. He finished with only three yards on two attempts on the ground, his lowest total in his NFL career.

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This offense certainly does not seem to be at the level it was at last season, where they finished second in total offense. This season they are 24th through five games.

Even Jackson himself sees a difference so far. In his press conference on Monday, Jackson admitted that “We need to get back to where we were last year”.

Looking ahead to week six

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The Ravens travel to Philadelphia to play the Eagles on Sunday. The Eagles are struggling at 1-3-1 but miraculously are one game back in the win column behind the Dallas Cowboys for first place in a pathetic NFC East.

Here are some keys to look out for in this game:

1. Look for interception opportunities

Despite keeping the turnover streak alive all season, the Ravens defense has only had three interceptions. Carson Wentz has thrown a concerning nine interceptions.

Look for the Ravens secondary to be more opportunistic than normal this week. Guys like Marcus Peters and Chuck Clark could have big days in the passing game.

2. Slow down Miles Sanders

Eagles starting running back Miles Sanders is off to a solid start this season. He is on pace to top a 1,000 yards rushing and is currently averaging 5.1 yards per attempt.

With how good the Ravens secondary is and how poorly Wentz has played so far this year, look for the Eagles to feed Sanders early and often.

3. Passing game could have big day

Lamar Jackson could look to get back into a groove against the Eagles’ defense this week.

Although their defense has allowed only 215 yards per game, they haven’t necessarily played top quarterback competition each week. This includes Dwayne Haskins, Burrow, and a combination of the San Francisco 49ers second and third-string quarterbacks.

Look for Brown, Andrews, and perhaps one or two more receivers to have a good game this week.

Prediction

Look for both the Ravens’ running and passing games to get on track against a struggling Eagles team. It will be a balanced attack that should see Jackson throw for 275 yards and three touchdowns, while also getting Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards some love.

The Ravens will win in a blowout.

Final Score: Ravens 34, Eagles 13

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